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Lana Lin

20 September 2012 - 18 November 2012

Gasworks presents the first UK solo exhibition by New York-based artist Lana Lin.

Since the early 1990s, Lin has developed a rich body of film and video work dealing with processes of identification and the politics of translation. Her practice is largely informed by experimental and documentary filmmaking and raises questions about the implications of media representation – and the sense of estrangement it can produce – for an understanding of constructs such as language, nationality and cultural identity.

This exhibition presents three of the artist's key works from the 1990s and early 2000s. Often concerned with Lin's relationship to her Taiwanese cultural heritage, these films speculate on the problems of translation across cultures – whether between the so-called East and West, or between our world and other worlds.

Stranger Baby (1995) is a 16mm mock science fiction film that explores what it means to be normal or considered 'alien'. We see a woman haunted by an androgynous apparition and curious faces flickering on a television screen. This is overlaid with a soundtrack composed of viewers’ speculations on the film’s images. Their conflicting responses, marked by anxiety, reveal ready-made, and often racially driven, assumptions.

The 4-channel video installation Mysterial Power (1998–2002) documents the struggle of the artist as both an observer of, and participant in, the daily routines and religious practices of her Taiwanese family. Inspired by Lin’s adolescent cousin – who is believed to be able to communicate with a Taiwanese god – this work focuses on the figure of the spiritual medium as a translator between different realms of experience: the everyday and the supernatural. Mediating between the strange and familiar, she offers a shifting vantage point from which to view cultural constructions of belief and knowledge.

Taiwan Video Club (1999) introduces an underground world of television piracy in Taiwan. The protagonists record and trade videotapes of their favourite 'epics', broadcast daily on television. Focusing on their fanaticism and the materiality of the recording process, this video draws a connection between electronic and cultural forms of translation.

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Events

Wednesday 17 October, 7pm
Screening: Unidentified Vietnam No. 18 (Lin+Lam, 2007, 16mm, 30min), followed by a discussion between the artists and critic and curator Simon Sheikh.

Unidentified Vietnam No. 18 is a response to seventeen films held in the collection of the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, labelled only as “Unidentified Vietnam, #1-17.” The film examines the contested relationship between Vietnam and the US, nation building and democracy, history and propaganda. We hear an historian, film scholar, and South Vietnamese-in-exile speculate upon the intention of these salvaged images, reminding us of what remains unidentifiable in the process of recovery.

Wednesday 7 November, 7pm
Screening: Almost the Cocktail Hour (Lana Lin, 1997, 16mm, 56min) followed by a discussion between the artist and lecturer in film Maxa Zoller.

Almost the Cocktail Hour is an experimental biography of writer Jane Bowles, who was one of the more eccentric characters of the art salon scene of New York and North Africa in the 1940s and '50s, as well as an expatriate, lesbian, alcoholic, and wife of the more celebrated writer and composer Paul Bowles.

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Lana Lin was born in Montreal in 1966 to Taiwanese parents. In 1988 she enrolled on the MFA Film programme at Bard College in New York, where she became affiliated with an emerging group of artists and filmmakers, including Matthew Buckingham, Sadie Benning, Jennifer Montgomery and Julie Zando. Since then, Lin has been critically engaged with feminism, psychoanalysis, post-colonial studies and experimental ethnography, areas of interest which still inform her practice today.

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With thanks to H. Lan Thao Lam, Becky Randall, Matt Fitts / The Block and Carrol / Fletcher

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